What is cybercrime?

Cyber Criminal typing on keyboard

Cybercrime and financial fraud are heavy subjects. This type of crime can cause misery, shame, and financial ruin for victims, some of whom never have their losses reimbursed. Thankfully, more and more of us are aware of financial fraud in all its forms and are better equipped to protect ourselves from cybercrime.

However, fraudsters are constantly upping their game and it’s up to all of us to get savvy and protect ourselves from this ever-evolving threat. We’ll teach you what cybercrime is, how you can be scammed through a bank transfer, and how to prevent cybercrime affecting in this insightful guide packed with everything you need to know, including how to report cybercrime in the UK.

What is cybercrime?

Cybercrime is criminal activity that either targets or uses a computer or network-connected device to commit crimes against people. Most cybercrime is used by criminals who are trying to get money, make a political statement or attack someone personally. Some cyber crimes are very technically skilled and organised, and others are committed by novices using basic hacking skills.

Types of cybercrime

  1. Email and internet fraud.

  2. Identity fraud (where personal information is stolen and used).

  3. Theft of financial or card payment data.

  4. Theft and sale of corporate data.

  5. Cyberextortion (demanding money to prevent a threatened attack).

  6. Ransomware attacks (a type of cyberextortion).

  7. Cryptojacking (where hackers mine cryptocurrency using resources they do not own).

  8. Cyberespionage (where hackers access government or company data).

  9. Interfering with systems in a way that compromises a network.

  10. Infringing copyright.

  11. Illegal gambling.

  12. Selling illegal items online.

  13. Soliciting, producing, or possessing child pornography.

How to prevent cybercrime

1. Never trust unsolicited calls or emails asking for your details

This is, perhaps, the most important single piece of advice you can follow. Sometimes, as consumers, we can be way too polite. Most people don’t want to be confrontational - even when on the receiving end of an unsolicited call from a bank.

It’s important to remember that anyone working for a legitimate financial organisation will ask for further verification before you give out your details. In fact, they should never ask for your account details or personal information without providing proof that they are who they say they are.

If your bank, HMRC, your online lender, or anyone else calls you and asks you for your information, tell them you’ll call the business yourself and give these details over once you’ve verified that the request is legitimate.

2. Treat links in emails with caution

Phishing emails are a common form of consumer fraud, as most of us know. These emails appear to be from banks and other financial institutions and ask you to confirm your account details, card details or other personal information. This is often via a clickable link that takes you through to a page asking you to insert your details.

Again, this will often appear to be genuinely from your bank. Watch out for this type of fraud and always stop to question the source of an email if it’s asking you to confirm your account information, as genuine consumer emails from financial institutions won’t do this.

3. Be wary of text scams

Clickable links are also sent by text, so it’s important you’re wary of these too. Fraudsters will send a convincing message with a link through to a scam website. Once you’ve clicked the link, you’ll then be asked to submit your personal and financial details.

Cyber criminals will often pose as a person or an organisation you’re familiar with and trust. They may use tactics such as urgency (inferring you have a limited time to respond) or they may threaten you with negative consequences.

4. Make sure you’re aware of the latest scams

Scammers like to take advantage of consumer vulnerabilities. This means they’ll target consumers where they feel the most vulnerable. Examples include emails or calls that offer discounts on energy bills, and phishing campaigns that claim to have an undelivered parcel for you to collect.

These scams are ruthless and prey on those who may have their guard down due to vulnerability. As a consumer, you should always keep abreast of the latest scams.

5. Get smart with your passwords

Researchers at LastPass found that half of all internet users use the same password for all their log-ins. But it’s never been easier to generate and store passwords securely on your devices and doing so can go a long way in protecting you against hacks and data breaches.

Opting into multi-factor authentication is another recommended way to protect your accounts, while long passwords are even better than complex ones when it comes to security.

6. Add additional layers of security

Along with the above, it’s important to add extra layers of security when using your card online. You could sign up to Verified by Visa for instance when completing online transactions. This involves you creating a secure password between you and your card company.

7. Keep your software updated

Many of the updates happening behind the scenes on the software you use every day is helping to protect users against cybercrime and fraud. Developers are working tirelessly to make their software more robust and protect data, but they rely on you to actually update to the latest versions when they are available.

Fraudsters will always look for a weak spot, and this applies to software. So turn on automatic updates and minimise your chances of being targeted.

8. Regularly check your credit report

It’s important to regularly check your credit report (you can get a free check from Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion) and identify any transactions you don’t recognise. If you spot anything suspicious, an advisor will be able to help you.

Do banks refund scammed money in the UK?

Wondering how to get money back from a scammer? Well, whilst this can be difficult, banks will often refund your scammed money for you.

A UK bank may refund your scammed money in as little as five days. However, if your case is fairly complex, and your bank needs extra time to gather information and evidence, it could take over a month for your money to be refunded.

Cybercrime and financial fraud aren’t going away, but the best defence you, as a consumer, can have against these criminals is to keep up to date on their latest tactics. There are even online tools such as this one from Citizens Advice that help you to check whether something that seems suspicious is a scam or not.

There’s no reason to take a risk if an email or call just doesn't seem right. And even if a request for your account details doesn’t seem suspicious, it’s best to check with your providers anyway.

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